This is a post that I originally shared in 2020 that I’ve updated for 2023. Enjoy!
The new year is right around the corner. If you’re like me, you’re already thinking about goals for the new year and planning out projects you hope to accomplish.
But, it’s worthwhile to take a step back and put these past twelve months in perspective. At the end of each year, I do that by writing up a personal year-end review.
This exercise helps me set myself up for success in January. I reflect over what I achieved during the year, what obstacles I faced, and what lessons I learned. I try to think positively on the past year so I’ll be motivated and inspired as the new one begins.
The insights I gain help me choose my goals for the new year. I’m able to see what worked and what didn’t so I can draw up a plan of action. As the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once wrote, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
In today’s blog post, I’m sharing the seven questions from my annual review. Feel free to adapt them as you like — your answers can be a few sentences or several paragraphs long. It’s entirely up to you.
And you can still do this annual review even if December has passed. I usually write it up the last week of December, but I’ve also completed it at the beginning of January.
Let’s dive in.
1. What were your plans/goals/dreams for these past twelve months? Evaluate how they went.
Under this question, I list any New Year’s resolution or other goals I made at the start of the year or throughout the year. Then I evaluate how they went.
I chose the word “evaluate” because even if I didn’t quite reach the goal I set at the beginning of the year, I might still have made significant progress and be able to check it off as a victory. Or perhaps my goals changed as the year progressed.
So even if you didn’t reach a goal you’d hoped to achieve, you can take a step back and evaluate why that happened. Maybe the goal was too overwhelming or too vague or you didn’t prioritize it or there were circumstances outside your control that prevented you from achieving it. If you want to tackle the goal again in the new year, these observations will help you avoid making the same mistakes.
Conversely, if you did achieve your goals, you can evaluate what helped you to succeed so you can repeat that success with new goals.
2. What skills did you learn this year?
I love jotting down any new skills I learned because it shows how I grew as a person in the past year. It’s fascinating to think about how you can do something now that you couldn’t twelve months ago.
As a writer, I love learning new skills as they help me widen the topics I can write about. I wrote an article here about the many different hobbies of famous writers.
New skills can be something that you learned in a matter of minutes or something that you dedicated several months to learning. It could be something you learned from a course (in person or online) or a YouTube video or a book or a friend or family member.
3. What were several highlights of the year?
It feels like ever since 2020 the years have become more crazy and unpredictable. Whether I had an amazing year or experienced disappointments, I think it’s more important than ever to stay positive and see how God blessed me.
So look back on the year for the big and little blessings. Were there any wonderful, unforgettable moments?
(Jane, a reader of the blog, suggested jotting down “surprises”. She wrote, “It helps me to remember that the world is full of things we do not plan or control…and how many of the things that ‘happen’ are wonderful! Once I start listing them, it helps me lighten up and welcome the unknown, rather than fear it.”)
4. What did you accomplish this year that you’re most proud of?
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Take time to give yourself a pat on the back here.
5. What (and/or who) are you most thankful for this year?
It’s so important to practice gratitude at the end of the year. If you jot down a person under this question, you might even want to say your “thank you” directly to them with a phone call or a written note or in person.
6. What went well? What didn’t go well?
After writing down answers to all of the previous questions, I usually have a lot of thoughts swirling around in my head. So here I can spill those out on the page. I’ll write a summary of overall how I think the year went: what strategies were effective at helping me achieve my goals, what prevented me, etc.
7. What was the biggest lesson (or lessons) you learned this year?
Finally, boil down into a sentence or two (or more if you’d like) your biggest takeaway from the year and how that can help you going forward in January. As the Psalmist writes in Psalm 90, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
I hope these questions help you as you draw up goals for the new year, and I also hope they help you reflect positively on the past year. If you have more questions to add to my list, be sure to let me know in the comments.
By the end of the year, we can forget a lot that happened. We might think that the year went terribly as we worked towards our goals. However, after writing up the annual review, we realize that we had many more successes than we originally remembered.
I love the year-end review so much that I actually write up a month-in-review each month too. I share more about that in my blog post about the two journaling methods I use to boost my productivity.
Happy New Year, friends!
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” — Henry David Thoreau
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Thank you! Wishing you much success with your writing projects in the new year! God bless.